Determinants of Overweight and Underweight among Children under 5 in Kazakhstan

Bakhytzhan Kurmanov1, Yolanda Pena-Boquete2, Aizhan Samambayeva2, Galym Makhmejanov1, *
1 Higher School of Economics, M.Narikbayev Kazguu University, Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan
2 AY Economics Research Centre, University of Santiago de Compostela, Santiago, Spain

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© 2021 Kurmanov et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: ( This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Higher School of Economics | M.Narikbayev Kazguu University, 8, Korgalzhyn Highway, office 608, Nur-Sultan Z05K8C9, Kazakhstan; E-mail:



During the last 10 years, the prevalence of underweight has decreased considerably in Kazakhstan and, nowadays, it is set under 3% for children under 5 years old. However, the prevalence of overweight, which was not important at all in the 90s, is reaching 10% for children under 5 nowadays. This means that there is a co-existence between being underweight and overweight in the same country and, in some cases, within the same region. In order to design policies addressing both problems and avoiding policies, which may solve underweight but worsening overweight, and vice versa, the aim of this paper is to analyse the socioeconomic determinants of the two problems.


We estimate the probability of occurrence using the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) collected by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Agency of Statistics of the Republic of Kazakhstan for the years 2006, 2010-2011 and 2015. This survey includes a questionnaire for children younger than 5 years old containing information on maternal and child health. We consider that a child is overweight if she/he falls over two standard deviations of the World Health Organization standards (WHO) for her/his age. Similarly, we consider that a child is underweight if she/he falls below the two standard deviations of the WHO standards.


Children of mothers with higher education have a higher probability of being overweight (6,8%) and less probability of being underweight (-5,5%). This effect disappears for children older than 2 years old. Children of Russian origin and other ethnic groups show a lower probability of being overweight in comparison with their Kazakh peers. Being born in the highest wealth quintile reduces the risk of a child under 2 years old being underweight (-2,9%). On the other side, children in rich families at age 2-4 years old have a higher probability of being overweight (3,7%).


Health policy aimed to improve family and institution´s knowledge on child nutrition could be effective measures to reduce infant overweight.

Keywords: Child health, Child overweight, Maternal education, Child underweight, Wealth index, Ethnicity.